The 2016 NFL preseason schedule was supposed to kickoff last Sunday night with the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, but a painting mishap canceled that. So the preseason schedule now gets started Thursday and the first matchup features Washington and Atlanta as the Falcons start their final season in the Georgia Dome before moving to a new stadium in the city next year. Atlanta is small favorite for this game on NFL betting odds.
Here’s a Closer Look at the Washington at Atlanta Preseason Week 1 Free Pick & TV Info
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) August 10, 2016
Washington vs Atlanta Historic Betting Trends
The game marks the first preseason meeting between the Redskins and Falcons since a 27-0 Redskins victory in the 2004 preseason finale. The game will be the first time the teams have met in a preseason opener since 1990. Washington leads the all-time series 10-5 in the preseason.
These teams met last regular season and Atlanta won 25-19 in overtime at home to improve to 5-0 — but then the Falcons went into a nosedive starting the next week on the way to an 8-8 record. Against Washington, Robert Alford returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown in OT. The Redskins had the first possession of OT and Kirk Cousins moved the team to midfield. On second and 8 from the 50, Ryan Grant slipped while trying to adjust to Cousins’ pass. Alford was in perfect position for the interception before racing down the sideline for the touchdown. Atlanta trailed 16-12 before Devonta Freeman's 6-yard scoring run with 24 seconds remaining in regulation.
Why Bet on Team Washington?
Well, it’s preseason so I can’t give you a great reason. Redskins tight end Jordan Reed won’t play against Atlanta on Thursday, coach Jay Gruden said. Reed has a sore thumb. The Redskins are just being cautious for a game where their starters will play 1-2 series. There’s no reason for Reed to risk a setback.
WR Jamison Crowder is day to day with a hamstring injury, and will sit out Thursday. Crowder has emerged as a favorite of Cousins’. You also won’t see the team’s first-round pick out of TCU, receiver Josh Doctson, as he’s dealing with an Achilles injury. You should see Washington’s big offseason acquisition, cornerback Josh Norman, a Pro Bowler last year with Carolina.
One guy to keep an eye on is seventh-round running back Keith Marshall, formerly of Georgia. A combine standout, Marshall ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.31) and posted the most reps on the bench press (25) among RBs. He was a five-star prospect out of high school. Marshall is firmly entrenched among the Redskins’ top three backs, along with starter Matt Jones and backup Chris Thompson.
Meanwhile, the Skins have moved defensive end Trent Murphy back to outside linebacker. The move was necessitated by Junior Galette’s season-ending injury shaking up the Redskins’ front seven. The Redskins need more depth at linebacker. Gruden says Murphy will still see snaps up front.
Why Bet on Atlanta?
The Falcons should again have one of the NFL’s better offenses this year. Matt Ryan returns as the team’s incumbent at quarterback in his ninth NFL season. The 2015 season marked his fifth consecutive 4,000-yard campaign, as he completed 407 of 614 passes (66.3 percent) for 4,591 yards with 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Freeman led the Falcons in rushing a year ago, posting 1,056 rushing yards on 265 carries including 11 touchdowns, tied for the most in the NFL. Wide receiver Julio Jones posted team and career highs in receptions (136) and receiving yards (1,871) in 2015. Those were both No. 2 on the single-season all-time list in the NFL.
With a talented receiving corps, an offensive line that feels like it’s coming together, a Pro Bowl running back and lots of options at tight end, Ryan believes the Falcons can score 30 points a game this season.
“I’m a little more experienced than I used to be, but I feel like I’m in a really good place. I feel like I’m throwing the ball better than I ever have,” Ryan said this week. “My body feels in really good shape. I feel really good being in the second year of this system; (I’m) very much on the same page as Kyle. And I’m really excited about what’s in front of us.”
My Free Pick
Take the Falcons at home and go under — you should almost always go under on NFL odds in a team’s first preseason game.